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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

Well I am not a fan of this series of Classic Rock Legend DVDs (I much prefer their Master From The Vaults) and one of the reason is that most of those releases in this series present the groups well past their prime and mostly living of their legends. But my curiosity was definitely piqued when fellow early-Strawbs fans told me that both Tony Hooper and Hudson were playing on this thingie. Gladly so, my library system had it and I wasted no time renting it and rushed home. Unfortunately the same usual flaws are again present, no dependable information both in the booklet and on the disc; both the recording dates and the line-up are difficult of access as is the tradition on this rather poor CLR series with rather bland Roger Dean artworks.

And sadly my initial enthusiasm got a cool shower, as not only was the track list only half promising, but the line-up was fairly deceiving. Yes, Hooper is there (and we wonder why, as obviously he does too from the look on his face), Hudson's drumming sounds is very actualised, which actually ruins a bit the feeling of the better tracks, but does not hinder the more commercial ones, and the keyboardist is certainly no match for his predecessors (be it Wakeman, Weaver or Hawken), but on the other hand there is a rather good lead guitarist in the name of Willoughby and Cousin's voice that is still every bit as good as it was back then.

If the start of the concerts starts in a minor mode, just warming up, we have to wait until the poignant Hangman track to get our first thrill (with Hudson's drums sound rather apt for the military beat), but we get a slap in the face with a very boring, sloppy and smoochy Grace Darling, with just drips dirty love song. If I mention it so severely, it is because right after this completely unworthy track, we get a doubleheader or River/Sea (from the same BAS album), which sizzles (superb lead guitar and good drumming, if you manage to forget the 90's sound) and get our hopes up for more to follow. Sadly though, it does not come as Strawbs throws in the worst two tracks ever (and their most commercial) of Lay Down and Part Of The Union and finishing on the very average H&H track.

It is rather sad to see that CR Legend series keep pushing sub-par performances (and misspelling the group's name by adding the hideous "The" before their name) with rather un-daring set lists. And it is rather sad to see Hooper being coerced into participating on four songs of the BATS album, over which he split from the group because he disliked the musical direction. Yes Tony, I too wonder what you were doing on that ship. Definitely not a good buy, but did we expect that much from this serie.

Report this review (#104644)
Posted Wednesday, December 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars This great live DVD is one of the best entries in the entire Classic Rock Legends DVD series! And The Strawbs really are classic rock legends! Many complaints can be lodged against this series, but the artwork by Roger Dean is beautiful (as usual).

The set list is great with numbers from most of the best Strawbs albums from From The Witchwood to Burning For You, with only a couple of newer tracks thrown in. I can understand that some fans would be disappointed with this selection because it concentrates more on the rock-era of Strawbs career and almost entirely ignores the folkier band they once were. For me, and I believe for prog fans in general, this is a good thing.

The show opens with Cut Like a Diamond, a rocking song from the Burning For You album. Next comes a new song that I hadn't heard before I saw this DVD for the first time. It is another rocker with a good introduction and it also includes a keyboard solo. Not Wakeman for sure, but very good. I like it, but I can't say how it compares to the studio version.

The third number, Ringing Down the Years, is another one I had never heard before. It is a tribute to Sandy Denny. I am not a very big fan of her work but Dave's spoken introduction brings me to tears every time. Really beautiful and moving song too, but hardly Prog.

The Hangman and the Papist comes next and what a great version, quite different from the original. Not better, but different. Grace Darling is yet another ballad type song and not really progressive, but a beautiful song nonetheless, with a good electric guitar solo. The lead guitarist is very good here. Indeed, the whole band is really good and energized.

The River/Down by the Sea is a classic and great here as usual. The two obligatory hit songs Lay Me Down and Part of the Union are played next. Part of the Union is quite awful, as most of us know by now. But everything is saved again by the closing number, the excellent Hero & Heroine, probably my favourite Strawbs song ever, taken from my favourite Strawbs album of the same name.

If you are a fan of this band and particularly like their rockier material, this DVD is essential viewing. For everyone else it is still an excellent addition to a Prog collection, even if only a couple of the songs can be said to be truly progressive.

Report this review (#177405)
Posted Sunday, July 20, 2008 | Review Permalink

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